Thursday, 21 June 2007

So I took a lame OKcupid! test thing

Your Score: Androgynous

You scored 90 masculinity and 60 femininity!

You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Surprise, surprise...

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

More 'porn made me do it' media crap

The Daily Mail has yet again got me riled for the day.

See here:
Revealed: The British links to internet rape site.

So they've dedicated about 75% of an article about the violent and life-threatening rape of an underage girl to the Ills Of Pornography and how the poor wittle man wasn't really responsible for his actions, it was the PRON THAT MADE HIM DO IT! BLAME THE PORN! From a newspaper that ran a story about potential changes to UK law over what constitutes rape over the weekend with a definite MRA bias, it seems pretty clear to me what their agenda is, and that hasn't got very much to do at all with preventing violence against women. In fact, in the first article, it seems to me that they're using the rape of a 17 year old girl for the purpose of publicising their anti-porn agenda. Belittling suffering in the name of authoritarian outrage. And that's ill. That sickens me.

I'll be interested to see if this crops up in any radfem blogs with a more authoritarian bent, and see how they divide up their blog space. I suspect the word-count on rape/porn may be quite similar to The Daily Mail's.

I took a look at the site they're on about. To me it just looks like any other misogynist gonzo porn, and I look at A LOT of porn sites. Doesn't surprise me at all that 30% of their members are women, though I'd be amused if the Flail started claiming the women who watched this material were potentially violent rapists, too, and I wouldn't put it past them, either.

Confusing messages.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Women and Pornography seminar

So last week I choked up some cash, took a day off and went to an open seminar on Women and Pornography over at Sunderland University. Apart from the excitement of catching a glimpse of a couple of never-seen-before northern cities (or is Sunderland a town?), I was pretty excited about the speakers and potential for really honest, open discussion. I don't know; when you know you've got hardcore anti-porns present, you're always on your guard, always having to backpeddle and clarify, often self-censoring to some extent. And there was none of that. Perhaps the lack of speakers with opposing views, again, kept people away, but anyway, debating whether porn should exist wasn't the point of the seminar.

I was supposed to meet DemRed of Backlash up there, but in the end she couldn't make it, so I prepared and reminded myself of a few word-for-word details of the 'extreme' porn proposals. I get tongue-tied sometimes and forget details in any kind of public speaking context, so I'm pretty glad I did.

It's quite nerveracking - walking into a place where you feel like a beginner in this game, like you don't quite know the language and will make obvious blundering errors that you know will show you off to be the tourist you are. But actually, it's easy to get over that in the company of 'fun' feminist academics, because they're often as informal as you about these things.

Plus, there were only twenty of us, or a few less, so it's hard to feel the same way I've done when asking what are probably dumbass questions in a huge auditorium.

The other thing that confused me was realising it was going to be a women-only space. I didn't really get that. If you're going to try and educate a male-dominated industry into budging a few inches, wouldn't it be good to have a few men in the room?

Anyway, it was hosted by Clarissa Smith, who caught me just as I was going to sneak off for a slightly illegal roll up round the corner, and was incredibly welcoming to me throughout the whole thing.

So we got the whole Backlash bit over with and I could relax. Most people there had been following the campaign to some degree and knew what we were about, so there weren't many questions, and I got a chance to talk about certain aspects of the legislation to prosecute against possession when it was relevant. All the talks prompted me to think more about what could/could not be perceived as 'serious violence' whether consensual or not. The law has not yet, as far as I'm aware, been passed. Though sometimes they slip these things through, apparently. So we shall see.

Feona Attwood presented her research on alt and independent porn. A few sites have been perved through. Mmm. A lot of stuff I knew about, and some I didn't. She talked about how many of the sites like nofauxxx or bellavendetta have proper manifestos of a kind - an aim to disrupt and transgress in some way. In some ways, I agreed with her, perhaps it's sad these pornmakers are putting out disclaimers about their work. Why is it necessary to spell out their politics when it's quite often obvious what their aim is in the imagery you see them use?

Later we heard from Anna Span, Britain's first female pornmaker, and watched a few of her clips. Interestingly, she told us that her background is quite academic, and she originally wanted to go into mainstream or indie feminist film making, and then decided that she liked sex and film, so she'd make some porn. And it's funny, clever porn, even though it's not quite what gets me off. It's not 'porn for women', quite, but porn from a female perspective. She showed us how she uses very different camera angles and shots from a lot of male made porn, how she pays attention to music and fashion, and the few lines of dialogue give some formation of character and wit, so her porn actors are kind of relateable humans. So, I don't know. Feminist porn? Who knows that's supposed to mean. Humanist porn, absolutely. So, um, yeah, apparently that's not for me. Not sure how I feel about that admission. I've been thinking a little about my own porn consumption, too. I do watch quite a lot of porn, mostly because I find watching people playing and fucking in various ways, by various means, interesting. And then there's the stuff I could never just show at a seminar or conference because I know I'd end up a puddle on the floor.

Anyway, went for a much needed cig break. I went trundling into the bogland again, but fortunately the other smokers had found another sneaky patch of hiding, so I went over and tried not to be a blundering idiot. And it was good! Talked a bit about queer SM, psychosexual therapy, psychiatry, painful looking porn orgasms and other such joys. Was not too blundering. All was well.

Clarissa ended the day with a talk on women who watch porn, and the body vs. mind. We all noticed that women tend to have more of a speech prepared about why they watch porn, as if there's some disclaimer to be made. Sort of like the indie pornmakers, really. We all have our own little defensive speech prepared. We have to justify why it's a valuable use of our time. Well, fuck that in the ear. It's got boring justifying why it really is okay that women watch porn. We're not going to turn into the evil jezebels people imagine. Or at least, those of us who didn't have jezebel-like tendencies already. I suppose it's just the madonna/whore thing. I do know a few women who really enjoy sex but are incredibly secretive about that fact. Where does that get them?

Perhaps there's STILL a danger that a sexually upfront woman is just a weeny bit too scary. Perhaps the women in Clarissa's survey preferred their interest in porn to be a secret. But my female friends? Jeez, we talk sex pretty openly. Three of us in a house of four owned porn and watched it quite often. Most of my friends at least read erotica. But, I don't know, there seems to be a reluctance to talk about the experience of watching porn - the physical experience, perhaps. I'd love that to change.

Glad I went.

Saturday, 16 June 2007


I have been reading this wonderful post and the comments today and wanted to write something on female wantonness, deviance and monstrousness, even witchery. When I set up this blog, that feeling of personal monstrousity, in some form, of feeling like something or someone that is occasionally treated as monstrous, dangerous or a heretic was a key factor.

One of my big literary interests is female monstrousity. I covered it in my dissertation on Coleridge and Shelley, and have a big interest in 1890s writing on decadence and degeneration, and the literature surrounding these ideas. I wrote an essay on the decapitation of female monsters in 'Dracula' and the poetry of Arthur Symons, wrote about the 'dangerous' highly sexed woman, but also the 'love that dare not speak its name', and the literature that to some degree eroticises and even celebrates 'feminised' men. It's not easy to uncover very much of Symons's work online.

In these texts, societal degeneration or subversion of the Natural Order is symbolically brought about by women, usually in some mythological form - essentially all born of Lililth, not Eve. I remember reading Bram Dijukstra's Idols of Perversity for the first time and uncovering all these symbolic depictions of female deviance. Yet it's possible to trace the association of Adam's first wife and female licentiousness back in all kinds of contexts. In the Christian Middle Ages, it was believed that wet dreams were caused by female succubi (or lilim). Much more so than Eve, the depiction of Lilith tends to be the only real symbol for female sexuality, or at least the model on which sexual, deviant women are based in western art and literature. When she's mentioned at all. She's usually depicted as a redhead, and red hair thus becomes symbolic in women of temptation, rebellion, deviance, disobedience. When Eve has given in to temptation and is unceremoniously thrown out of the garden of Eden, her blonde hair is often depicted in Renaissance paintings, such as the work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or St Paul's Cathedral, as turning to a shock of red.

Personally, I suppose I don't mind identifying as A Lilith. I've always rather liked that Alexa Wilding, Rossetti's redheaded muse, was so often depicted as 'perverse'. I've never minded being a redhead for this reason or resisted the stereotype that female redheads have a tendency to be highly sexed or deviant, even though the cultural history behind the persecution of redheaded women is misogynist (I find it interesting that green is said to temper red, and that I took on the screename 'verte' some time ago, again associated again with the idea of female perversity in that same cultural period (la fee verte).

Belief in redheads as witches stems, I think, from Germanic culture, where redheads were uniformly stripped and searched for 'marks of the devil'. Particularly freckles. And redheads know a lot about freckles. The folklaws surrounding the deviant redhead - considering only 4% of people are natural redheads - are endless.

I've always enjoyed cultural depictions of Lilith, or lilim. Last night, pacing around the flat because I couldn't sleep, I came across my copy of Dracula, and again found myself identifying far more with wanton, syphillitic Lucy Westenra than tempted-but-ultimately-virtuous Mina Murray. In a way, both embrace certain elements of the beginnings of female emancipation in the novel, but the results are quite different. Lucy ends up with a stake through her heart, pumped full with the blood of three men, decapitated, monstrous. Mina experiences sexual temptation, but is ultimately valued by her male companions, in part because of her abstinence.

So, yes, I am not ashamed of being a wanton redhead, sexually deviant, a genetic mutation (and yeah, no-one else in my family in memory has had red hair), something monstrous.

People will scapegoat all kinds of crap to forbid people from being part of communities, for being 'abnormal' or deviant in some way. And really, those reasons are as much of a nonsense as proclaiming that redheads are witches, to be burnt at the stake.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

mini-round up

I am suddenly broke, and also slightly diseased.

In other news, this game is driving me nuts!

And in the news...
London-based folks might be interested in hearing Alice Vachss speak on the shamefully low rape conviction rate in the UK.

Caitlin Moran on the latest abortion law crisis in the Independent.

And a slightly better, if rather worrying article on working mothers in The Guardian today.